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Master of Public Administration

Fast Facts 
Program Founded: 1976
Program Accreditation: NASPAA
Graduates to date: 1620
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What will I learn?
How will it prepare me for the future?
What are the core competencies for the MPA?
Why Portland State University? 

Why an MPA?

What will I learn?
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) focuses on preparing students for administrative positions in governmental and nonprofit organizations. An MPA is a flexible degree that allows you to choose from a variety of options once you graduate. During the MPA program, you will participate in courses in areas including public administration, administrative ethics and values, administrative theory and behavior, public policy, administrative law and policy implementation, public budgeting, financial management, human resource management, and analytic methods.

How will it prepare me for the future?
Perhaps you are looking to develop your current career, or maybe you are just getting started in the workforce. No matter where you are right now, the MPA will help you advance both personally and professionally. The MPA faculty work diligently to ensure that the graduates receive a highly relevant and efficacious educational experience. Classes prepare students beginning their careers to be competent and effective leaders in public affairs, and mid-career students to enhance their capacities as managers and leaders through the opportunities provided for reflection and integration of new knowledge. The core curriculum provides the skills and knowledge desired by employers today while our specialization options allow you to hone your abilities in a 15 credit area focus of your choice.

Experiences in public organizations are a key component of the program, with students being placed in a variety of public sector, government and nonprofit organizations. We serve leaders in the region by helping students to work in the community as part of their graduate education. These students devote significant hours as part of class teams, engage in short-term internships, and/or work in organizations or public agencies through their culminating field-based organizational experience. For example, leaders in the community often request student teams from specific skills classes when their organizations are engaged in strategic planning, program evaluation, or grant-writing.  See Table 1 for information on field placement settings of MPA students for two recent years.

Table 1:  Field Placement Settings of 2010-2012 MPA Students

Field Placement Settings
Number of Students
National or central government in the same country as the program
State, provincial, or regional government in the same country as the program 20
City, County, or other local government in the same country as the program
Foreign government (all levels) or international quasi-governmental
Nonprofit domestic-oriented 35
Nonprofit/NGOs internationally-oriented
Private Sector - Research/Consulting
Private Sector but not research/consulting 4

Graduation and job placement rates are important indicators of a high-quality master’s degree program. For example, 100% of full-time MPA students from the 2007-08 cohort completed their degree on-time (see Table 2). Further, students who graduated in June 2012 were employed in a variety of fields within six months, including federal, state and local governments, foreign governments, and the private nonprofit sector (see Table 3).

Table 2:  Degree Completion of MPA Students Admitted in 2007-2008

Graduated within
Two Years
Graduated within
Three Years
Graduated within
Four Years
Number of Full-Time
Students in the
2007-08 Cohort
11 11 11 11
Number of Part-Time
Students in the
2007-08 Cohort
36 0 18 29
Total Number of
Students in the
2007-08 Cohort  
47 11 29 40

Table 3:  Employment Settings of 2012 MPA Graduates

Employment Settings Number of Graduates
National or central government in the same country as the program 2
State, provincial, or regional government in the same country as the program 6
City, County, or other local government in the same country as the program 15
Foreign government (all levels) or international quasi-governmental 2
Nonprofit domestic-oriented 10
Nonprofit/NGOs internationally-oriented 0
Private Sector - Research/Consulting
Private Sector but not research/consulting 6
Obtaining further education 0
Status Unknown 13
Total 56

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What are the core competencies for the MPA?
The MPA program is designed to be academically rigorous, intellectually challenging, and personally rewarding. Each student accepted into the program is assigned to one of our committed faculty who serves as both advisor and mentor. The faculty-student partnership will help ensure that program competencies are met for each student. The program competencies are as follows:

  • Articulate and exemplify the ethics, values, responsibilities, obligations and social roles of a member of the public service profession.
  • Identify and apply relevant theories and frameworks to the practice of public service leadership, management and policy. 
  • Respond to and engage collaboratively with diverse local and global cultures and communities to address challenges in the public interest.
  • Identify and engage with the key elements of the public policy process.
  • Employ appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques to investigate, monitor and manage resource use.
  • Create and manage systems and processes to assess and improve organizational performance.
  • Conceptualize, analyze, and develop creative and collaborative solutions to challenges in public service leadership, management and policy.
  • Assess challenges and explore solutions to advance cross-sectoral and inter-jurisdictional cooperation in public programs and services.
  • Demonstrate verbal and written communication skills as a professional and through interpersonal interactions in groups and in society.
  • Think critically and self-reflectively about emerging issues concerning public service leadership, management and policy.

Approved by the Faculty, January 3, 2011; Revised by the Faculty March 7, 2011; Further revision by the Faculty October 10, 2011

Why Portland State University?

Experienced and Committed Faculty
Faculty members have accumulated years of professional and academic experience to help guide you as you earn your degree. The lead faculty members teaching in the MPA have competencies and substantive expertise in areas such as local and regional government, public finance and law, nonprofit management, leadership, sustainability, health management and policy, and natural resources policy. All faculty members have completed their graduate studies in fields related to public administration and/or have substantial experience working in the public and nonprofit sectors. Their wealth of experience and dedication to teaching provide students with an exciting and rewarding learning experience.

Unique Partnerships and Community Connections
Portland State is well-known for its focus on community service and engagement, and the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government is one of the best places to take advantage of the numerous community partnerships PSU has developed. Partnerships and cooperative arrangements exist within the Oregon University System (which includes Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Oregon, and more) as well as with multiple health, human service, community and governmental agencies in Portland, across Oregon, and nationally.

Creating Leaders
The Hatfield School has earned a reputation as a producer of well-qualified and passionate alumni. You will be learning with committed students from a wide variety of fields and levels of experience. Through lively class discussions and coursework you will make connections that will further enhance your professional career. The list below provides a few examples of the diverse organizations that hire our MPA graduates:

Public Sector Nonprofit Sector Private Sector
  • Bonneville Power Administration
  • Multnomah County
  • Oregon Advocacy Commissions
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
  • Oregon Department of Justice
  • Portland Metro Boundary Commission
  • Portland Police Bureau
  • Tri-Met
  • Tualatin Valley Water District
  • US Fish and Wildlife
  • University of Washington
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Columbia River Economic Development Council
  • Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Morrison Family Services
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
  • The World Affairs Council
  • Third Wave Research Group

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